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The Alamo and the Spanish colonial missions’ recent designation as a World Heritage site has kicked planning efforts around the historic sites into high gear and has changed the way the state and city are approaching the historic sites’ revitalization.
The latest development – a new agreement between the City of San Antonio, Texas General Land Office (GLO), and the Alamo Endowment to jointly develop and carry out a master plan for the Alamo complex and surrounding historic district – is drawing eyes downtown.
The agreement will be voted on this Thursday by City Council and, if approved, signed by all parties during a formal ceremony later that day.
Click here to download a copy of the agreement. Previously, officials from the GLO and City had been working together on a plan, this new agreement adds the Alamo Endowment to the planning mix.
Alamo Endowment will oversee funding for the plan. So far, the City has committed $17 million, the state approved $31 million, and the Endowment hopes to procure “hundreds of millions of dollars” in private donations, according to a news release.
“The City of San Antonio has worked tirelessly over the past several years to bring the Alamo Complex and the San Antonio Missions to the forefront,” stated Mayor Ivy Taylor. “We won a huge victory by securing the World Heritage Designation this summer, and this agreement is evidence that we’ve now completely succeeded in bringing together the powerhouse fundraising and management of the Endowment and the oversight of the GLO.”
The GLO took control of the Alamo complex in July after 110 years of custody by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT). The City owns and manages the Alamo Plaza. The Endowment is a private nonprofit that is working closely with the GLO to raise funds for the restoration, preservation, management, education, and operation of the Alamo complex. The Endowment is also “working to build a proper Alamo Visitor’s Center to house the Phil Collins collection,” one of the largest known collections of Alamo artifacts that the singer has promised to donate to the state if a master plan underway in the next seven years.
The agreement calls for the completion of the so-called Joint Master Plan “no later than July 2016,” which also calls for the creation of an Executive Committee, Alamo Advisory Group, Citizen Advisory Group, and a Management Committee consisting of Mayor Ivy Taylor and Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush. Only the Citizen Advisory Group meetings will be open to the public.
The Alamo Plaza Advisory Committee, the 21-member group that starting meeting in May 2014 to update the City’s 1994 Alamo Plaza Study Report and Recommendations and develop vision and guiding principles, hasn’t met since Dec. 9, 2014 when it discussed the City’s request for qualifications (RFQ) to select a firm that could develop a master plan.
The agreement would add five members, appointed by the GLO, to this committee and renames it as the “Citizen Advisory Group” giving the GLO and the Endowment more influence on the project.
“A new dawn is rising at the Alamo and it is one rooted in collaboration and historical appreciation,” stated Commissioner George P. Bush in a news release. “The members of the committees and advisory groups that are coming together under this Alamo Cooperative Agreement have demonstrated a steadfast and selfless dedication to preserving our sacred Shrine of Texas Liberty.”
The RFQ for the master plan was revised and reissued after the state announced this spring that it would be appropriating $31 million toward redevelopment of the Alamo this September, but under the new agreement the RFQ is off the table.
Fisher Heck Architects was contacted by the City in June, according to sources, to develop the master plan but were recently informed that the City will no longer be using the firm.
Instead, this Joint Master Plan will be developed by consultants selected and hired by the GLO and Alamo Foundation with advisement from the City. These “professionals will include, but not to be limited to, the following components: investment and management plan, implementation strategies, interpretation elements, and a physical master plan for the Alamo Plaza Historic District and the Alamo Complex,” states the agreement.
In a way, the GLO/Endowment becomes the developer itself – rather than hiring an architectural or development firm to organize a team of sub-contractors and consultants.
Center City Development and Operations Department Director Lori Houston said the City was impressed by and appreciated the preliminary work Fisher Heck had done and expected that an application from the firm to continue to work on the project in some way would be welcome. The scope and structure of the project had simply changed.
The Endowment’s seven-member board is chaired by Bush and includes influential local and regional business owners, real estate developers, and entrepreneurs.
“I am thrilled by the opportunities we now have with this expanded scope and the means to hire the best professionals in their field to develop a master plan,” stated Councilmember Roberto Treviño (D1).
“The World Heritage Designation is evidence that the scope of this project should go far beyond the Alamo. As the scope has grown dramatically, the management and fundraising efforts will have to grow to match the broader scope and goals,” stated Gene Powell, chairman of the Alamo Endowment’s Remember the Alamo Foundation, in a news release. “The good news is that the UNESCO designation opens up international fundraising opportunities, which will make it possible to raise the funds necessary to implement this new master plan and tell the wonderful story of all five Missions.”
Powell owns Bitterblue, Inc. the developer known for several major project in San Antonio including Alamo Quarry Market, Rogers Ranch, Shavano Park, and more.
The agreement comes just before the official World Heritage Inscription Ceremony of the Alamo and four Spanish colonial missions’ on Saturday, Oct. 17 at Mission San Jose at 11 a.m. and less than a week after the GLO’s plans to purchase three historic buildings across from the Alamo were revealed.
*Top image: (From left) County Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4), Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, and Mayor Ivy Taylor converse before a press conference in May, announcing the state’s $31 million allocation towards the redevelopment and restoration of the Alamo Complex and plaza. Photo by Joan Vinson.